Tag Archives: storm

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

A flash of intuition

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

There are few Route 66 landmarks more iconic than the art installation known as Cadillac Ranch, so the Tailor and I were really looking forward to seeing it in person. Unfortunately, however, long before we reached Amarillo we knew we’d lose the race for daylight. To make matters worse, a big thunderstorm was rapidly approaching from the west, the intermittent flashes of lightning coming ever closer, ever more quickly. Not exactly ideal weather to go fumbling around in the dark in search of roadside attractions. After all, it’s not like Cadillac Ranch is in the center of town—it’s out in the middle of an unmarked field, and I had a sneaking suspicion there were no floodlights trained on those cars.

The Tailor really wanted to stop anyway, and said, “Surely it’s lit after dark. It’s so famous!” I told him I didn’t think so—according to our maps we were within spitting distance of it, and there was nothing but inky black out there. Besides, the Texas Panhandle is so flat that if it were lit at all, we would have seen it from miles away.

I’m sorry to say I was right about that: it’s not lit. At all. It’s not marked in any way—at least, not by any method that could be discerned by headlight. We drove back and forth a few times on the mile-long stretch of beat-up frontage road to which I’d narrowed down the location, while I peered through the passenger-side window into the darkness, hoping a flash of lightning might give us a clue. Finally I broke down and, for the one and only time on our entire Route 66 trip, consulted the GPS map on my phone to see if we’d found the right place. With the one available bar of mobile service, our insistence on paper maps was at least vindicated: we had gotten the location precisely right.

“This is the spot, ” I said. “Can’t see anything, but we’re looking right at it.”

“Wait,” he answered, “maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of it in the storm.”

We waited. A few heartbeats of silence.

And then: CRACK.

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

A fork of lightning, directly in front of us, not half a mile ahead. The flash illuminated ten unmistakeable silhouettes for a split second that felt like an eternity.

We looked at each other and simultaneously burst into nervous cackling, our eyes wide, the hairs on the napes of our necks standing on end.


Heceta Head Lighthouse sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Sailor’s warning

I have never yet managed to visit Heceta Head in anything other than a raging gale. (Thank goodness for the car overlook where I could park and sketch in comfort while the Pacific threw bathtubs of icy spray at my windows…)

But then again—what better way to see firsthand exactly what lighthouses are for?

Thunderstorm sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Raindrops actual size

Speaking of stormy weather, it’s a little unnerving to be sitting in the passenger seat, happily sketching along, and suddenly be startled out of your reverie by massive raindrops that sound like rocks hitting the windshield.

To be honest, though, it also makes for a thrilling sketch session—especially when you live in the Pacific Northwest, where the rain mostly comes in the form of thick mist and gentle drizzle.

Albuquerque sandstorm sketch by Chandler O'Leary


At the time of this posting, I’ll be away on a new sketching adventure (for clues as to where, check out the Facebook page—or you can wait until I post a few sketches here in two weeks!). At this time of year, my destination is known for unpredictable weather that can be all over the map. I’m just crossing my fingers that it won’t be quite so crazy as the day I drove across New Mexico in a freaking sandstorm. Just sayin’.

What’s the craziest weather you’ve ever encountered on your travels? (I’m hoping that by sharing stories online, the weather gods will be distracted from dishing it out on me during my trip…) For you fellow sketchers out there, what’s the worst weather you’ve ever sketched in?

Prairie storm sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Dark skies

One of my very favorite things about the Red River Valley (of the north) is that the land is so perfectly, endlessly flat that you can see entire weather systems grow and unfold before your very eyes.

Then again, it’s not so fun when that weather catches up with you. I did this painting in the passenger seat while the Tailor drove, and not ten minutes later those roiling clouds went from pretty picture fodder to terrifying death trap. It rained so hard we couldn’t see past the end of our windshield, and I had to put my paintbrush down in order to cross my fingers and hope the storm didn’t come equipped with car-crushing hailstones.

Then it was over, just as quickly as it had come—driving home the point that no matter how quick on the, er, draw I think I might be, nature will beat me every time.

Four Corners sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Four corners

The Tailor and I make for an odd pair on a road trip. I’m likely to put enormous thought into the road tunes, to cue up the exact perfect song to play as we pass through certain landscapes (I am also usually the only one who notices or cares, no matter who’s with me on a trip). He, on the other hand, is likely to have one half of his mind in the present moment, and the other half somewhere in the Annals of Random History.

For instance, on this day, I was all wrapped up in how the weather seemed to shift with the music, when the Tailor turned to me and said, “Did you know that considering today’s date and our current time zone, the Titanic was sinking precisely one hundred years ago?!?”

So of course I had to add that to the sketchbook. Doesn’t the desert remind everyone of maritime disasters?

Four Corners sketch by Chandler O'Leary